Normalizing the Grieving Process
People often say that pain is a natural part of life, which conveys that by simply existing, we will have to walk through times that are incredibly painful for us. In these moments, the spiritual minded teach us that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. What this message is conveying is that suffering results when we fight reality. But when we accept our pain, we struggle less, suffer less, and the pain can move through without being blocked by resistance.
I don’t know about you, but personally I feel this is much easier said than done.
Grief as a Teacher
For my own sake, I wish I could tell you that I did not suffer, was always zen and could face pain with the openness of a child. But like most of you, I have to make a conscious choice to stay open, rather than shut down, push back, or collapse into pain. Sometimes I do it well, but many times I do not. No matter what your profession, learning to be with pain is not easy.
To that point, I am aware that one of my greatest teachers in life has been suffering, namely grief. It has pointed me to my “weak” spots, shown me where I tend to give up, and how easy it is to get lost in my monkey mind. For me, grief was a heavy blanket that laid itself over my light. Thankfully, even when the clouds cover the light of the sun, the sun is still shining. This understanding may not be felt while living with grief, but it certainly does not make it untrue.
I read an article recently that struck me so deeply that I let out an unintentional primordial sound. It was as though the author had stepped into my experience in 2015, and put words to what I had not been able to express. In Kelly Borgan’s article, In Honor of Fear and Pain, she wrote: “I want to scream and explode as much as I want to fade into nothing.” These words captured the intensity of grief. She did not name the stages of grief, but rather gave voice to what it feels like to exist within it. Rather than naming the stages of grief, she described what it feels like to exist within them.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross, the matriarch and pioneer of healing from loss and grief, authored the book On Death and Dying, which outlines the five stages of grief. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although the stages of grief are often thought of as a linear process, this is untrue. Grief does not work as a step-by-step process, but rather a cyclical experience where one may feel they are reverting back into old, painful feelings after tasting the sweetness of acceptance.
The Path to Healing
Considering any day, any moment, on this planet, people are grieving, I think it’s important to talk openly about grief, what the experience is like, and how to navigate it. It is a natural byproduct of loss, and so whatever constitutes a loss for someone can spark grief.
Considering any day, any moment, on this planet, people are grieving, I think it’s important to talk openly about grief, what the experience is like, and how to navigate it.-Lesley WirthLoss is not experienced solely when someone passes, but also when we have to let go of things such as dreams, a changing body, relationships shifting, or anything else that brings someone to the point of having to let go of something he or she is deeply attached to. Grief is how we process our loss; so in essence, it is actually the path to healing what hurts.
So how do you do grief? Wouldn’t we all like to know how we can move through the process as quickly as possible and rid ourselves of the heavy burden of grief? The experts in this field all agree, that although there are things you can do to support yourself during these times, being with what you are feeling and allowing it to be felt is the most important.
We cannot escape grief, but we most certainly can live through it.
Support While Grieving
People have been for centuries, and we are no less capable than our ancestors. That being said, supportive measures can be taken:
- Remember that grieving in all its stages is normal and healthy.
- Talking to others who can relate to what you are going through can be incredibly helpful.
- Remind yourself that there is no right way to grieve and what you need to process your emotions is as unique as your personality. Allow yourself what you need to find some comfort and solace during these times.
- Ask yourself if you are avoiding your feelings and if so, try to find a way to get in touch with them. Be as creative as you need to be.
- Do not put a time limit on your process and remember that you are the only person who can decide to be gentle with yourself.
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